Some Westsiders were stuck voting provisionally on June 3 because elections workers didn’t show up
By Gary Walker
A Venice polling station that went hours without an elections inspector or a functioning voting machine was one of several locations with problems that made it difficult for voters to cast ballots on Election Day, according to an audit survey by the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University.
The Leavey Center sent 30 student volunteers to 375 of the city’s approximately 1,000 polling places on June 3 to observe and record conditions at each of the locations. According to the center’s report, more than 12% of polling locations that the students visited had malfunctioning voting booths and 9% had two or fewer poll workers on site when they were visited.
At 30% of polling places, the address was not immediately visible from the street, as is required by local election law.
Problems outlined in the report did not appear to have major consequences but could significantly impact voter participation if repeated in a different election cycle, Leavey Center Associate Director Brianne Gilbert said.
“This was a low-turnout election. During a presidential election, the number of problems we found could have had prevented thousands of Angelenos from making their voices heard,” Gilbert said.
Venice resident Donna Factor’s polling location, the lobby of an apartment building at 345 4th Ave., was one of the sites where less than two poll workers were present at the time of the LMU survey.
Factor said she arrived to vote at the location early in the day and was shocked when she was told that an election inspector had not arrived and thus no voter address book was present and the vote-processing machine had not been activated.
“No one told us why the inspector didn’t show up. I went to the polls with a lot of energy, ready to vote, and there was no one who could explain to us what was happening,” said Factor, who filed a complaint with the Secretary of State’s voter hotline.
Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder spokeswoman Regina Ip confirmed that the inspector assigned to the Venice polling place did not report for work.
“We do not know why the inspector failed to show. It could be a number of reasons,” Ip wrote in an email. “An emergency opening was conducted for the polling place to make sure everything was up and running as soon as possible. With every election, there are issues that may arise and to prepare for that we have backup plans to make sure the polling place is open.”
Factor and her neighbors were allowed to vote using provisional ballots but she was dismayed that she could not cast her ballot in the conventional way, as provisional ballots take longer to be processed and tallied.
A staunch supporter of author Marianne Williamson, who was competing for the Westside’s 33rd congressional seat, Factor had hoped to be one of the first to cast her ballot and see it counted on the same day.
“I campaigned very hard for Marianne and everything was geared up to getting out the vote on Election Day and being able to vote. I had never campaigned for anyone before, and I could never have imagined that the biggest obstacle [in the election] that I would encounter would be the actual voting apparatus,” Factor said. “I’m concerned about my vote not counting because everything that I did was geared toward getting out the vote, and now I hear that there were problems at other locations.”
Ip said that verified provisional ballots and late-arriving mail-in ballots would be counted during the 28-day period known as the official election canvass.
Ivan Spiegel, a Venice resident who has worked as a county elections inspector for 20 years, believes a chain in the electoral link is broken when inspectors do not show up at their assigned voting precincts.
“There was occasion a few years ago where an inspector didn’t arrive on time at the Venice United Methodist Church, which was an election precinct,” Spiegel recalled. “Voting is a right and working at an election precinct is a very big responsibility [but] as long as you’re dealing with the human element, these kinds of things can happen.”
Factor’s polling place was one of 25 of those randomly selected by the Leavey Center in Mike Bonin’s City Council District 11, which includes Venice, Mar Vista, Westchester, Del Rey, Playa Vista and Playa del Rey. In addition to the congressional primary, voters in those communities participated in races for the 26th California Senate District and the 62nd Assembly District.
“There were more problems than we would have hoped for, but in the grand scheme of things, most of the polling places had well-run operations. While there’s definitely room for improvement, for us it’s learning what we can do to move forward in the right direction,” Gilbert said.